A regional solution

Just days ahead of the London conference on Afghanistan, a meeting between the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan took place in Islamabad. The timing of this trilateral meeting is of utmost importance. The purpose of the London conference is to set an agenda for bringing peace in war-torn Afghanistan with the help of the regional players and the international community. The conference is being touted as one of the most important agenda-setting ones for the future of Afghanistan.

Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan’s trilateral meeting is significant as it is very rare to have these three neighbours sitting together. The foreign ministers discussed the situation in Afghanistan and agreed on a joint framework to meet the regional security challenges. The declaration said that any regional or international conference on Afghanistan should “acknowledge the salience of our trilateral engagement and cooperation for achieving common objectives and lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan…stress that these processes must be indigenous and have ownership of all immediate neighbours of Afghanistan.” This is an obvious reference to India’s role in Afghanistan since it is not an ‘immediate neighbour’ of the war-ravaged country. Some quarters have been asking for India to play a role in reaching a regional solution to the Afghan crisis. Pakistan has shown reservations towards this approach and alleged that India is using Afghan soil for a proxy war against Pakistan. The Pakistani establishment may have different reasons for opposing India’s inclusion as a regional player in Afghanistan but this is not viable in light of the Indo-Pak conflict dating back to the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. The trust deficit between the two nuclear states has already affected the South Asian region to a great extent and is one of the key reasons why a regional body like SAARC has not developed into an important entity as it could have. If India is included in the list of regional players, the issue of Afghanistan will be put on the backburner as intractable issues on the table will lead to the usual cockfight between India and Pakistan. It is a sure shot way to ensure that there is no regional solution. Besides this, Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours are more affected by the situation there than other countries in the region. Iran is still hosting some refugees from Afghanistan while Pakistan is hosting a considerable number. That said, there is no denying that by not helping in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of Afghanistan, we opened the door for Indian influence. If we want to rectify the situation, we must help rebuild the war-torn country to win friends and influence people across the border.

On another note, the trilateral meeting also agreed to not allow their respective countries’ soil to be used against each other. While all this is welcome, we cannot deny the fact Pakistan has had a long history of letting its soil be used for cross-border terrorism. Iran has accused Pakistan of allowing a terrorist organisation like Jundullah to operate from its soil. It is still not clear whether this Sunni militant group is being backed by al Qaeda or the US, but the fact remains that it is based in Pakistan. Now that we have committed to not let our soil be used for cross-border terrorism, it is hoped that this ‘commitment’ will be followed in both letter and spirit.

Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world and the epicentre of terrorism. Instead of hiding our heads ostrich-like in the sand, we need to end this policy of supporting our so-called strategic assets. The shelf life of such a policy has ended long ago. We have to understand that if we unleash militias of fanatical bent, sooner or later they will create trouble for us as well. A continuation of this policy will not only spell trouble for Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region, but the entire world. It is a critical struggle and can only be won by eradicating terrorism from our soil.

(my editorial in Daily Times)


Sandy said…
There are some of the points that you have either knowingly or unknowingly ignored.

First of all, India considers Kashmir to be its integral part. That dispute is has not been settled. Kashmir and Afghanistan do share a common border thus making India and Afghanistan immediate neighbors.

Second of all, it is true that India has not hosted Afghan refugees, but India has been actively involved in the Afghan reconstruction process. On the other hand, Pakistan has in the past supported and recognized the Taliban. They ignored the atrocities committed by these fanatics on the Afghan people particularly on women. Pakistan therefore has hardly done anything for the welfare of the Afghans. They have rather used them as their strategic assets.

Thirdly, you did not mention where exactly these Afghans have been settled in Pakistan. A large number of them have settled in Pak occupied Kashmir. Needless to say that it is a disputed territory. India on the other hand has a law that prohibits any outsiders from buying property in Kashmir. This is to ensure that Kashmirs traditional ethnicity is maintained, as per the UN guidelines, something that Pakistan has never done. The reason for that is obvious.

India on the other hand has refrained from using tactics that other occupiers have done. Israel has settled colonies in Gaza thereby changing the ethnicity. Same is the case with China in Tibet. That the crucial difference.

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